It’s two years ago today Asda became the first major retailer to stock free range dairy milk under the Pasture Promise logo. Here’s Rob, one of the farmers you see on the label telling us how Asda is helping to make a difference for farmers and cows.

It’s now been two years since Asda took the decision to start selling Free Range Dairy Farmers’ Milk in stores across the country. The premium we receive for the milk has benefited us in lots of ways. Not only has it helped us keep going when the dairy industry has been through some tough times, but it’s also allowed us to invest in our farm and cows.  

One example of how every litre people buy carrying the Pasture Promise logo helps is the new cow Fitbit we’ve invested in.  All our cows have ‘wearable technology’ in the form of tags attached to collars around their necks. These tags use accelerometers to monitor movement of the cows 24 hours a day but instead of just counting steps and setting fitness goals, they also pick up any changes which differ from that individual cow’s normal daily routine.  We know our cows and we can see quickly any changes we should be concerned about. The type we invested in monitor activity, feeding and rumination, with data uploaded onto the cloud and accessible with any mobile device.

Although this technology will never replace good stockmanship, it is certainly an aid to cow health, with any cow a bit off colour soon picked up and their recovery easily monitored.  Since the system has been running the levels of antibiotics used has fallen meaning another benefit of buying our milk.

Although it really is designed to give farmers early health warnings, it does highlight other things such as the higher levels of activity when the cows are out grazing.  With the unseasonable warm weather this spring the cows were turned out on 22nd February and immediately you could see a spike in the increase in activity recorded.

Anyone who has seen cows being turned out will remember the image of them excitedly running around a field, and by watching closely it is clear to see the three different types of play happening.

  1. Mock fleeing is when they run, trot canter or gallop often with a raised tail. 
  2. Mock aggression involves the bucking of the hind feet, headbutting playmates and ‘vocalisation’ which varies with degree of excitement.  Playmates will often interchange roles. 
  3. Finally, environmental exploration where cows investigate novel objects within a new environment and explore within the field

I’m glad to be a Free Range Dairy Farmer and so are the cows, because although play behaviour in cattle has had very little research, it is evident to everyone how happy my cows are to be outside on pasture.

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